It’s now a safe bet that Franklin’s Kentucky Downs will be bringing an extension of its Mint Gaming Hall to Bowling Green.
Through a new corporation called BG Landco, Kentucky Downs owners Marc Falcone and Ronald Winchell have applied for amendments to the development plan for 58.8 acres along Ken Bale Boulevard, with plans to build a facility that includes Historical Horse Racing machines and other amenities similar to what has been developed in Franklin.
BG Landco’s preliminary application said “HHR and related machines will be included in the proposed development” planned for the now-vacant property between Sam’s Club and the roundabout at Shive Lane.
The HHR machines, first introduced at Kentucky Downs in 2010, have fueled that horse racing venue’s growth and led to a $25 million renovation and expansion that includes the 110,000-square-foot Mint Gaming Hall and its 1,100 HHR machines.
Like the Mint Gaming Hall, the expansion planned for Bowling Green will include more than just the slot machine-like HHR machines.
The application to be heard later this month by the City-County Planning Commission of Warren County said: “It is anticipated that the proposed development will include upscale restaurants and bars and other entertainment and recreational facilities.”
The expansion into Bowling Green has been in the works for a few months and got the green light in February when the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission approved Kentucky Downs’ application to expand its licensed premises.
That action came just days after the Kentucky General Assembly passed and Gov. Andy Beshear signed legislation aimed at legalizing the HHR machines that have fueled the explosive growth of Kentucky Downs.
That legislation was necessary after the Kentucky Supreme Court ruled last September that many types of the HHR machines in use at Kentucky Downs and other venues were illegal because they didn’t constitute a version of pari-mutuel wagering that is authorized under Kentucky law.
Senate Bill 120 changed the definition of pari-mutuel wagering to include betting on historical races, meaning Kentucky Downs could continue a type of wagering that has grown dramatically and helped the venue boost purses for its live racing.
Largely because of the HHR machines, betting on racing at Kentucky Downs increased from $20 million in 2010 to nearly $800 million in 2018.
Now, the venue that started as Dueling Grounds Race Course in 1990 as a European-style course with an all-turf surface is looking to bring that breakneck growth to Bowling Green.
Although the preliminary application for development plan amendments is short on specifics, it’s clear from the letter Winchell submitted to the KHRC that the Bowling Green facility will be akin to the Mint Gaming Hall.
“The proposed facility will be within the requisite 60 miles of Kentucky Downs’ racetrack and will not be within 60 miles of another association’s racetrack,” Winchell wrote. “It will not be within 40 miles of a simulcast facility.
“At this expanded licensed premises, Kentucky Downs plans to offer simulcast racing wagering as well as a variety of pari-mutuel wagers including exotic wagers, all yet to be determined.”
Winchell also made the case in that KHRC application that an extension into Bowling Green will be beneficial.
“The location will be a great benefit to the city of Bowling Green and Warren County, bringing additional tourism, tax revenue and much-needed jobs, as well as a benefit to the continued growth of horse racing in the commonwealth,” Winchell wrote.
Winchell and Falcone didn’t identify a site in their application for an extension facility, but KHRC Executive Director Marc Guilfoil said in February that the partners were considering “two or three possible locations.”
The development plan amendment application document to be considered by the planning commission says of the Ken Bale Blvd. site: “There is not a better location in Bowling Green for this proposed development.”
– Follow business reporter Don Sergent on Twitter @BGDNbusiness or visit bgdailynews.com.